Senate leaders working on post-election plan to avoid 'fiscal cliff'

The New York Times reports that a bipartisan group is trying to find a path to a deficit reduction deal, but Democrats and Republicans still remain far apart on details.

The New York Times: Leaders At Work On Plan To Avert Mandatory Cuts
Senate leaders are closing in on a path for dealing with the "fiscal cliff" facing the country in January. ... First, senators would come to an agreement on a deficit reduction target -- likely to be around $4 trillion over 10 years -- to be reached through revenue raised by an overhaul of the tax code, savings from changes to social programs like Medicare and Social Security, and cuts to federal programs. Once the framework is approved, lawmakers would vote on expedited instructions to relevant Congressional committees to draft the details over six months to a year (Weisman, 10/1).

Meanwhile, several members of Congress are scrutinizing an HHS plan as well as reports about overpricing on Medicare drugs --

Politico Pro: GOP Docs Knock Error-Reporting Plan
Several Republican physicians are pushing back on a new HHS proposal that would allow people to self-report medical errors, arguing that the policy doesn't consider that people can't always identify what is or is not an error. "While it is important to understand the subjective patient experience of care, it would be inaccurate to use this information as an objective standard of care," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Dr. Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. ... The letter was signed by Sens. Tom Coburn and John Boozman and Reps. Bill Cassidy, Ron Paul, Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun, John Fleming and Phil Roe (Haberkorn, 10/1).

CQ HealthBeat: Grassley Scrutinizes North Carolina Hospitals' Use Of Medicare Outpatient Drug Program
The Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican, Charles E. Grassley, is pressing North Carolina hospitals to answer questions about whether they are abusing the 340B Medicare outpatient drug program, which is intended to lower drug prices for the uninsured poor. Grassley, of Iowa, wrote to Carolinas Medical Center, Duke University Health System and the University of North Carolina Hospital after newspaper reports said they were inflating prices on chemotherapy drugs. The investigation by The News & Observer in Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer found that hospitals "mark up prices on cancer drugs two to 10 times or more over cost," according to a Sept. 22 article (Adams, 10/1).

Modern Healthcare: Grassley Seeks Answers From Hospitals On Drug-Discount Program
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) requested information from two hospitals and a health system in North Carolina about how they are using the 340B federal drug discount program. The request is in response to media reports that the providers -- 402-bed Carolinas Medical Center in Concord, 786-bed University of North Carolina Health Care in Chapel Hill and the three-hospital Duke University Health System in Durham – have charged more for certain cancer drugs, compared with prices charged by community oncologists (Lee, 10/1).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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